Tailenders find flourish to thwart Warwickshire

Warwickshire 460 & 94-3 Worcestershire 416

The focus may have been on Warwickshire for the first two days of this Midlands derby, but yesterday it finally switched to Worcestershire.

Although Warwickshire did manage to claw back some lost ground with an opening stand between Nick Knight and Mark Wagh, which piled 66 runs on to the first-innings advantage of 44 that had accrued, it was Worcestershire's day, as they proved in the last half-hour or so, when they struck some telling blows.

First Knight skied an attempted slog-sweep to Graeme Hick, who just had to jog back from slip for the catch. Then, with four overs left, the same bowler, the Zimbabwean Ray Price, bowled Wagh, who yesterday signed a four-year contract extension.

An over later, Hick's occasional off-spin drew Naqaash Tahir into an imprudent drive and the nightwatchman was bowled, so that by the close Warwickshire were 138 runs ahead, but three wickets down, to set up an intriguing climax which could yet see Worcestershire, who are in a parlous state in the Championship with the Second Division a yawning reality, conjure up an unlikely but welcome victory.

Given the way their lower order performed as they went past the follow-on figure, and on to maximum batting points - an unthinkable feat after the start they had made in the morning, when they had resumed 299 runs behind with seven wickets left - they might just succeed.

The early disappointment of losing first Kadeer Ali and then, more tellingly, Hick, when the latter was within sight of yet another hundred, augured ill for the rest of the innings. But the heroes were queuing up further down the order, with useful offerings from the belligerent Andrew Hall and Price as well as a selfless, unbeaten innings by the veteran wicketkeeper and acting captain, Steve Rhodes.

To cap it all, a thrilling career-best innings by Matt Mason was studded with three sixes - two off Jim Troughton's left-arm spin and one off the heroic Dougie Brown - and nine hammered fours and it helped the county to maximum batting points for only the fifth time this season, which perhaps helps to explain their predicament.

For Warwickshire there was consolation in collecting maximum bowling points. Brown is their first bowler to claim 30 wickets this season, after picking up his first five-wicket haul of the summer. Heath Streak, who claimed four wickets, is the only other Warwickshire bowler to have taken five in an innings, twice in his debut match against Northamptonshire back in June.

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